The Art of Europe’s Forgotten Avant-Garde Artists Now Digitized and Put Online

Eco­nom­i­cal­ly deplet­ed but filled with the desire to pose ques­tions about the future in rad­i­cal­ly new ways, post­war Europe would prove fer­tile ground for the devel­op­ment of avant-garde art. Though that envi­ron­ment pro­duced a fair few stars over the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, their work rep­re­sents only the tip of the ice­berg: bring­ing the rest out of the depths and onto the inter­net has con­sti­tut­ed the last few years’ work for For­got­ten Her­itage. A col­lab­o­ra­tion between insti­tu­tions in Poland, Bel­gium, Croa­t­ia, Esto­nia, and Ger­many sup­port­ed by Cre­ative Europe, the project offers a data­base of Euro­pean avant-garde art — includ­ing many works still dar­ing, sur­pris­ing, or just plain bizarre — nev­er prop­er­ly pre­served and made avail­able until now.

For­got­ten Her­itage’s About page describes the pro­jec­t’s goal as the cre­ation of “an inno­v­a­tive online repos­i­to­ry fea­tur­ing digi­tised archives of Pol­ish, Croa­t­ian, Eston­ian, Bel­gian and French artists of the avant-garde move­ment occur­ring in the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tu­ry,” meant to even­tu­al­ly con­tain “approx­i­mate­ly 8 thou­sand of sort­ed and clas­si­fied archive entries, includ­ing descrip­tive data.”

Cur­rent­ly, writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Claire Voon, its site “offers vis­i­tors around 800 records to explore, from doc­u­men­ta­tion of art­works to texts.  The major­i­ty of works stem from to the ’60s and ’70s, as a time­line illus­trates, with the most recent piece dat­ing to 2005. This inter­ac­tive fea­ture, which has embed­ded links to indi­vid­ual artists’s biogra­phies and exam­ples of their art­works, is one way to explore the well-designed archive.”

For­got­ten Her­itage thus makes it easy to dis­cov­er artists pre­vi­ous­ly dif­fi­cult for even the avant-garde enthu­si­ast to encounter. Vis­i­tors can also browse the grow­ing archive by the medi­um of the work: paint­ing (like Jüri Arrak’s Artist, 1972, seen at the top of the post), instal­la­tion (Woj­ciech Bruszewski’s Visu­al­i­ty, 1980), film (Anna Kuter­a’s The Short­est Film in the World, 1975), “pho­to with inter­ven­tion” (Edi­ta Schu­bert’s Pho­ny Smile, 1997), Olav Moran’s “Konk­tal” and many more besides.

Voon cites Mari­ka Kuźmicz’s esti­mate that about 40 per­cent of it, most­ly from Bel­gian and Eston­ian artists, has nev­er before been avail­able online. Debates about whether an avant-garde still exists, in Europe or any­where else, will sure­ly con­tin­ue among observers of art, but as a vis­it to For­got­ten Her­itage’s dig­i­tal archives reveals, the avant-garde of decades past, when redis­cov­ered, retains no small amount of artis­tic vital­i­ty today.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er Euro­peana Col­lec­tions, a Por­tal of 48 Mil­lion Free Art­works, Books, Videos, Arti­facts & Sounds from Across Europe

Every­thing You Need to Know About Mod­ern Russ­ian Art in 25 Min­utes: A Visu­al Intro­duc­tion to Futur­ism, Social­ist Real­ism & More

Enter Dig­i­tal Archives of the 1960s Fluxus Move­ment and Explore the Avant-Garde Art of John Cage, Yoko Ono, John Cale, Nam June Paik & More

25 Mil­lion Images From 14 Art Insti­tu­tions to Be Dig­i­tized & Put Online In One Huge Schol­ar­ly Archive

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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